The French-language newspaper El Watan is suspended. From this Friday, July 29, the 130 employees, who have not received wages for 5 months, are on strike indefinitely. In March last year, due to unpaid social contributions, the state blocked the accounts of the daily, which is therefore unable to disburse funds and pay salaries.
The journalists but also all the other professions tried to resist until the end. Two days of strike a week, then three, then four, faced with management’s inability to pay wages, the indefinite strike was therefore declared from last Friday. Salima Tlemçani is a journalist and leader of the workers’ union.
“It has a terrible impact on our morale, but afterwards, when you have an employer who doesn’t move, you expect the worst, you tell yourself that the company has to close. When there was nothing, we went on strike indefinitely until there was a solution.
El Watan owes 370,000 euros to the tax authorities. Blocked accounts, impossible to transfer property. 18 shareholders are now at the helm of the newspaper. Especially Mohamed Tahar Messaoudi, also director of the publication, who asks the employees to be patient. Furious with the state, he believes that blocking accounts is an injustice.
“I am very worried, I feel sorry for our press. El Watan apparently pays for its independence, its editorial line. Because we are really in a situation of injustice.
Last hope for the employees of El Watan: In Algeria, a law allows the release of wages when a company is in financial difficulties. A court decision is expected in the next few days.
After 31 years of existence, the newspaper El Watan is therefore in danger. As a new step after the closure of the newspaper Liberté in April, following the arrests and convictions of journalists.
Director of the media laboratory at the journalism school in Algiers, Belkacem Mostefaoui, believes that the entire press sector is dying out, that the state is going so far as to take control of the training of journalists. For him, the closure of El Watan is unthinkable.
It would be tragic because there would be a lack of clean air, of media oxygen, of this Algerian public space, which has been dramatically broken, broken. Since March 2019, the system has been moving in this direction.
Belkacem Mostefaoui, director of the media laboratory at the Algiers School of Journalism